‘I wanted to change my life’: Local artist draws Hackney after taking up illustration when Covid hit

Self-portrait of illustrator Becky Moriarty. Image: Becky Moriarty

Hackney-based artist Becky Moriarty has been spotlighting the borough where she lives in a series of illustrations.

The artist turned away from her career in graphic design when the pandemic hit and signed up for a master’s degree in illustration at University of the Arts London (UAL) in Camberwell.

Moriarty turned to her immediate surroundings in Hackney for inspiration during the lockdown period.

She said: “Last year I realised I really wanted to change something in my life. I wasn’t feeling very fulfilled by my job, and then Covid happened and I decided to sign up to do this master’s at UAL.

“It kind of became my lifeline and kept me focused and creative for the last year.”

Ghost Signs, 2021. Image: Becky Moriarty

Moriarty has been living in London for almost eight years and has made Hackney her home, but never imagined she’d spend as much time in the borough as she did, as a result of the various lockdowns over the last 18 months.

She drew on psychogeography, the intersection between psychology and geography, to inform her practice.

To do this, she spent days of the pandemic walking around different parts of Hackney and absorbing each area’s unique qualities.

In her master’s project, entitled Hackney’s Landscape of Memory, she examines how collective and individual memories associated with place.

Using a combination of line drawing and muted colours, portraiture and clean architectural styles, Moriarty created arresting images which will soon be on sale on the Made in Arts London website.

“I started using my daily walks to ‘drift’ through the landscape collecting photos, rubbings, video recordings and drawings,” she said of her work.

“I explored parts of the area I had never been to and came across a selection of hidden gems, off the beaten track but popular with the locals.

“Because of lockdown, my work and project just started to revolve around Hackney.”

The Auld Shillelagh, 2021. Image: Becky Moriarty

A testament to Hackney’s rich, diverse make-up, Moriarty was able through her work to connect to her Irish heritage.

“I began thinking about my own identity as an Irish person, especially since I couldn’t go home to Ireland,” she said. “I started to look at whether there was any connection here to Irish people and to Irish memory.”

It was through this exploration of her own background that she discovered and connected with the Irish Elderly Advice Network, a charity based in Hackney.

Speaking of the future, she now hopes to put together a collection of portraits of members of the advice network, which she wants to showcase in an exhibition in the borough she calls home.

“What I like about Hackney is how different each area is,” she explained. “You can go somewhere like Ridley Road which is so vibrant, or go somewhere completely different like Hoxton which is just a different vibe altogether.”